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PropNex blazes a trail in Centurion Club 2023

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 9 min read
PropNex blazes a trail in Centurion Club 2023
PropNex's management team / Photo: PropNex
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Seated (from left): Benjamin Tan (Agency Vice President, Business Strategy), Ken Ng, (Agency Vice President, Business Development), Marcus Luah (Agency Vice President, Business Growth), Ismail Gafoor (Executive Chairman & CEO), Kelvin Fong (Executive Director & Deputy CEO), Eddie Lim (Chief Agency Officer), Cijay Tew (Agency Vice President, Training & Development), Bobby Sng (Agency Vice President, Leadership Development).
Standing (from left): Carolyn Goh (Senior Director, Corporate Communications & Business Development), Michael Koh (Chief Technology Officer), Josephine Chow (Chief Operating Officer), Alan Lim (Co-founder & Director), Kenny Tan (Senior Director, Branding & Marketing), Lim Yong Hock (Key Executive Officer), Lee Li Huang (Chief Financial Officer), Alvin Tan (Executive Director, PropNex International)

 

PropNex is celebrating its fifth year as a listed company this year, and The Edge Singapore has given it more reasons to honour the occasion.

PropNex stood out among the real estate companies in the Centurion Club 2023, which ranks listed companies with market capitalisation between $100 million and $999 million.

It swept awards for the highest returns to shareholders over the past three years, growth in profit after tax over the past three years and weighted return on equity over the past three years. PropNex is also the overall sector winner in the real estate category.

Last year, PropNex also had the highest scores and won awards across all categories in the real estate sector, emerging as the overall sector winner. On top of that, PropNex was crowned the overall winner of the Singapore Centurion Club 2022 — beating all other sector winners.

See also: The Edge Singapore unveils winners of 2023 Billion Dollar Club

PropNex shares made its debut on the Singapore Exchange S68 -

on July 2, 2018 at 68.5 cents, 5.4% above its offer price of 65 cents. Five years on, its share price rose to 82.5 cents on October 30, 2023, reflecting an appreciation of 153.8% from its offer price of 65 cents (32.5 cents after considering the one-for-one bonus issue completed in May 2023). Market capitalisation stood at $610.5 million on October 30, 2023.

What makes it more memorable is that the group achieved all these wins despite the market challenges that beset the real estate sector, starting with the rollout of one of the harshest sets of property cooling measures on July 5, 2018, 72 hours after Prop¬Nex’s listing.

In hindsight, Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex, considers the property agency’s listing serendipitous. “Had the company not listed when it did, we may have delayed it or perhaps not listed it at all,” he says.

See also: Celebrating the top listed companies in Singapore

Gafoor attributes PropNex’s consistent performance to the management team’s commitment to adding value to the company’s stakeholders, namely property developers, salespersons, consumers and shareholders. “And we remain committed to doing the right thing,” Gafoor asserts.

After the property cooling measures were announced on July 5, 2018, the share price of many real estate companies plummeted. PropNex’s share price was likewise not spared. It nosedived to 52 cents at the close of July 6, 2018.

This round of property cooling measures saw a hike in additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) for residential property investors and developers. It caused a paradigm shift in the property market. More property cooling measures followed, with ABSD for foreigners increasing to 30% on December 16, 2021, and doubling to 60% on April 27, 2023.

Empowering its salespersons

The success of new residential development launches increasingly hinges on the sales strategies to sell off all units within an optimal timeframe before the five-year ABSD remission period. It is also about achieving specified price benchmarks.

PropNex has embarked on several initiatives and programmes to strengthen its position as the agency of choice for developers. The first was to grow its sales force, which has almost doubled from 6,684 on January 1, 2018, to 12,261 on Oct 13, 2023, establishing itself as Singapore’s largest real estate agency by the number of salespersons.  

 

The company recognised that the best way to navigate the cooling measures is to train its salespersons to provide value-added services to our clients. “It became increasingly necessary to equip them with the skills to achieve positive sales outcomes with every successive round of cooling measures,” notes Gafoor.

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020–2021 brought its own set of challenges and accelerated the digital disruption in the real estate industry. During the two-month circuit breaker when salespersons could not go out to meet clients, Gafoor and Kelvin Fong (Executive Director & Deputy CEO) led the way by conducting webinars and empowering PropNex salespersons to conduct virtual property viewings via social media platforms. “By getting our salespersons to navigate in the digital space, they were able to close deals during the circuit-breaker,” he says.

Over the five years from 2018 to 2023, PropNex has grown its market share across all sectors:

HDB resale to 65.1%, from 53.1%;

Private resale to 59%, from 34.2%;

New project launches to 47.4%, from 42.6%;

Landed resales to 47.1%, from 29.9%;

Private leasing to 37.3%, from 25.9%.

Working closely with developers

PropNex salespersons have been selling the most number of units at new project launches, further cementing its lead position. “We work closely with developers to strategise on price points and marketing concepts to help them achieve 100% sell-out within the timeline,” says Gafoor. PropNex is also committed to helping developers whose projects are nearing the five-year ABSD timeline, adds Gafoor.

No matter what the crisis — whether it is the Russia-Ukraine War or global market slowdown — PropNex always finds a value proposition to help developers.

The ongoing concern among homebuyers is the high-interest rate environment. For the past 10 years, Singapore has enjoyed low interest rates of 1% to 2%, but with interest rates above 4% at the start of 2023, homebuyers were naturally hesitant about making big-ticket purchases. The positive news is that interest rates have come down to 3% in October 2023.

Prices of new project launches have also been hitting new benchmarks, with those in the Outside Central Region (OCR) achieving prices above $2,000 psf and those in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) in the $2,500 psf range. “Such prices are unprecedented,” says Gafoor. “It leads to a whole new way of looking at real estate from a consumer’s and salesperson’s standpoint.”

Gafoor adds: “How then can a salesperson advise a client navigating a real estate market where prices have hit new benchmarks and interest rates are at their highest in over a decade?”

Value-add through technology tools and training

“The future of the real estate agency business depends on the relevance of the salespersons,” says Gafoor. “In the era of digital disruption, the million-dollar question is: how can salespersons provide the right value-added services?”

PropNex has embraced technology and artificial intelligence (AI) and integrated them with its proprietary mobile applications: PropNex Sales Suite, PropNex Investment Suite and PropNex Business Suite. 

“We look at things not from the tech lens but from the salespersons’ perspective,” says Michael Koh, Prop¬Nex’s Chief Technology Officer. “We understand the challenges the salesperson faces, even when it comes to just writing a simple social media post.”

Before OpenAI and other third-party tools were integrated and implemented, the tech development team discussed with the salespersons to find out what would be useful to them. Tweaks were made along the way to enhance the tech tools.

Embedded within the Business Suite app is a brand new module “Templates.AI”, engineered with the ChatGPT OpenAI to empower the salesperson to write social media posts and property descriptions for their property listings.

“Armed with OpenAI and proprietary PropNex data and tools, we can provide a full suite of social media copy to help the agents connect with their clients,” says Koh.

PropNex has also provided a platform within the Sales Suite where agents can simultaneously upload their listings on multiple independent platforms instead of having to create multiple listings on multiple platforms. “ChatGPT will also help them in creativity and language for their multiple social media posts,” adds Koh. “The tool also helps make their writing sound more convincing and compelling to achieve results. It’s a very holistic approach.”  

 

The PropNex Wealth System Masterclass has already reached an attendance of close to 1,000 at each session

 

High adoption rate

Beyond having a strong tech support team with a chief technology officer, there is also a tech committee of eight young and tech-savvy salespersons who will meet up regularly and discuss via PropNex (PN) Chat or PN Messenger about what is happening in the real estate market, where the pain points are, and how the tech could be improved to ease some of these pain points.

“Given the amount of money we are spending on tech, we want to make sure that it is something that the agents will find useful, and will indeed use,” says Gafoor.  Since introducing these apps, about 75% of the salespersons have adopted them. The high adoption rate is due to PropNex’s commitment to training its salespersons to use the apps.

Consumer outreach

When it comes to consumer seminars and outreach programmes, the PropNex Wealth System Masterclass has already reached an attendance of close to 1,000 at each session.

PropNex has also committed millions over the past two years in marketing costs for the specially curated PropNex monopoly board game based on Singapore’s real estate scene and incorporating local property cooling measures. It helps consumers understand the potential pitfalls of investing in property at the game board before they venture out to make property investments in real life.

Over the past two years, more than 10,000 consumers have participated in the PropNex Monopoly Championship. The PropNex Monopoly was included as a family bonding game in the 2023 National Family Week, as more than 1,400 consumers played the game over the weekend. “PropNex remains committed to furthering the national financial literacy,” says Gafoor.

The PropNex Monopoly was included as a family bonding game in 2023 National Family Week

 

In addition, PropNex continues to be committed to:

Developing tech to empower its salespersons to greater productivity;

Growing its market share;

Providing real-time transaction data that is superior to other platforms, given the size of its sales force;

Training PropNex’s salespersons in understanding the overall real estate market and the current challenges;

Consumer seminars and outreach programmes such as PropNex Wealth System Masterclass and PropNex Monopoly Championship;

Working closely with stakeholders such as developers to determine the right sales strategy and price points for success at project launches.

According to Gafoor, PropNex is the common link connecting all the stakeholders in the real estate market — from consumers to salespeople to developers — via its tech, training and marketing outreach programmes.

The listed real estate agency is also committed to going green. It has planted 150 trees this year and will plant 50 more in November. The company is helping the environment by using less paper. It is digitalising all its forms and all 12,261 PropNex salespersons have switched to NFC (near field communication) e-business cards. “We want to go green and be a socially responsible listed company for future generations,” says Gafoor.

 

 

PropNex is committed to going green and has planted 150 trees this year. It will plant 50 more trees in November

 

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